Friday, October 28, 2005


April 26, 2000
3801 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-4530

Nancy Shaffer, Ph.D.
Community Mental Health Center
Washington, DC 20007

Dear Dr. Shaffer:

At the consultation on April 19, 2000 I offered the opinion that families that assign one family member the role of scapegoat will tend to be families whose individual members are struggling with the psychological issues of dependency, shame, and narcissistic disorder. The scapegoating will serve to ward off the shame of individual family members and preserve each member's narcissistic integrity and idealized self-image. That members of such families have unusually intense dependency needs is supported by Brodey's observation that members of narcissistically-disturbed families exhibit "extreme intensity of relationship." Brodey, W.M. "On the Dynamics of Narcissism. I. Externalization and Early Ego Development." The Psychoanalytic Study of Society 20: 165-xxx at 166 (1965).

This letter elaborates material about my family that I originally presented in the personality profile I submitted a few months back. In this letter I offer additional data about individual family members that concerns possible sources of shame, dependency, and threats to narcissistic integrity. It is my speculation that in crucial ways I served a unique role in the family, as a regulator of self-esteem of other family members in my designated role as "ego-dystonic trouble unit."


The father was the youngest boy and next to youngest child in a family of seven children (three male, four female). The father's parents were working class immigrants of Orthodox Jewish origin. The parents were strictly religious.

The Father quit high school at age 16, in the tenth grade. The Father had attended a high school for college-bound, academically-talented students. The Father's IQ, as measured in the army, was 125.

(I attended the same high school as father; my grades started to deteriorate badly in the tenth
grade--the same grade my father quit high school).

The Father was employed in factory jobs that did not match his intellectual abilities: jobs in which his coworkers were not his intellectual peers or cultural cohorts.

The Father married at age 40. The Father married a non-Jew, which was unusual both in terms of the time (1946) and given the Father's specific religious background.

The Father was drafted into the army during World War II, at about age 35; he served in the South Pacific with men who were for the most part much younger than himself.

The Father did not drive.

The Father did not have hobbies. His interests were reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, socializing with family members, occasional movies, baseball games and visits to the racetrack.


Grandmother was dysfunctional, abusive, and paranoid. She spoke very little English and was totally dependent on her two daughters for her support, indeed, her very survival. She lived in a house that was purchased by her elder daughter.

Grandmother could have moved in with her elder daughter, who was childless and lived in a suburban house with extra bedrooms. This was never done because of grandmother's personality, including personality conflicts with both sons-in-law.

Elder daughter's husband was a church-going Christian, but he had no problem letting his mother-in-law die of cancer, alone in an empty house, threatened by knife-wielding neighbors, rather than have mother-in-law be cared for by professional nurse at his own house. The elder daughter's decision not to sell the mother's residence during the grandmother's lifetime (and use the proceeds for the mother's nursing care), preserved the equity of the house. The duty of nursing care fell on my own mother, who visited the grandmother each morning before work to wash her, feed her, and clean her sores.

On no occasion did the grandmother ever visit her elder daughter at her house.--ever. Not even for lunch. Reported reason: grandmother was afraid of driving in a car.

(Possible source of aunt's insistent projection: "Why doesn't Gary do more for his mother?")


unindividuated from early attachment objects (mother and elder sister), who were absolutely protected objects.

the mother and her early attachment objects engaged in the mutual denial of aggression on the part of the other parties and frequently they would discuss their dislike for shared displacement objects: other family members, racial minorities.


began dating her future husband at age 17, as a senior in high school; it was the sister's only serious romantic relationship.

Boyfriend did not have plans to attend college

sister was raised as an "as if" child -- a kind of little princess who was required to take instruction in ballet and piano, who would attend college, and, presumably become a professional who would marry a professional

Sister had hopes of majoring in French in college, and was a member of the French Club in High School; sister changed her major to Education in second year of college. Her French studies were too difficult for her (sister's IQ was measured at 132). Intense study would have taken time away from available time with her boyfriend; it is not known what role, if any, the boyfriend had in changing sister's educational plans. (Aunt's response: "Well, isn't that nice. So, she'll become a teacher. She didn't need to study French." The aunt did not respond: "She's just lazy, that's her problem. She could study French, but she's just too lazy to do that. She'd rather just hang around with her worthless boyfriend. That's the reason.")

Following graduation from college, sister enrolled in a master's degree program in education; she never completed the program despite getting top grades and nearly completing the program

At age 36 sister took two courses in accounting, with hopes of becoming a CPA. Despite top grades she dropped her plans

(One of sister's frequent projections directed at brother is: "He never does what he says he's going to do.")

Sister learned to drive at age 20, only at insistence of boyfriend, who said: "I'm not going to have a wife who doesn't drive." (His mother did not drive).

Following graduation from college, sister was unable to secure a teaching position. She took a position as a secretary at a law firm; a job that did not require a college degree. She worked at the job for one year. (Note that aunt did not opine: "A legal secretary? Did she go to college to become a legal secretary? Why, that's a disgrace. Anybody can become a legal secretary, you don't need a college degree to do that.")

Sister obtained a position as a teacher, to being in the fall of 1970. She had graduated college in May 1969.

Sister left teaching in early 1975, after about five years, to give birth to her first child. Sister never went back to work. In late 1975 brother-in-law asked me if I (the helpless, dependent brother) could get some kind of work for sister that she could do at home. I secured a typing position for sister, which was later terminated for administrative reasons. Brother-in-law came back to me: "Isn't there some other job you could get for her?"

In 1980, following death of mother, sister expected that I hand over my insurance proceeds ($10,000) to sister. Note that many women go back to work after they have a child. In effect, sister expected to be able to sit at home and do nothing, and have her mentally-disturbed brother hand over ten thousand dollars to her. Sister's daughter was 5 years old at time I was expected to hand over money--in all that time, sister never worked.


did not expect to attend college, but, reportedly, sister persuaded him to attend college. Mother would say: "That's so nice. If it hadn't been for our daughter, Eddie probably wouldn't have gone to college." (Mother saw sister, in stereotypical fashion, as a positive influence on others; mother was unable to appreciate the possible role her son-in-law had in downgrading her daughter's educational plans--i.e., daughter's decision to change majors to a less time-consuming course of study.)

(Note symmetry: "daughter as good object can only be a good influence on others" = "Black people murdered my mother." -- Mother's mother died of cancer, but had had difficulties with her black neighbors. Implication: mother's perceptions of external objects were really artifacts of the external objects' assigned status. If you were a good object, you were a good influence; if you were a bad object, you were a bad influence on others. Mother's notion that her own sister could only be a good influence on her own children was a product of the same type of thinking. Additional evidence: mother speculated that I (at age 9) was a cause of aunt's heart attack, despite the fact that aunt had been a heavy cigarette smoker.)

Brother-in-law did not pay for college tuition. That was paid for by his maternal uncle.

Brother-in-law majored in business administration. Following graduation his mother obtained employment for son as an elementary school teacher in an impoverished minority school district (Camden, NJ) through family connections.

Brother-in-law needed a deferment from military service; he was afraid of being sent to Vietnam; Mama took care of that.

War ended in January 1973. Brother-in-law remained in teaching position until 1983.

In 1975, brother-in-law instead of seeking a more substantial job upon birth of child, came to me to get an at-home typing job that his wife could do to supplement family income. Sister later lost that job, and brother-in-law came back to me for a second job. Note the brother-in-law's displacement of responsibility (and transmutation of guilt): The statement "Your sister just had a baby, can't you help us out financially by finding work for her?" screened out the statement "My wife just had a baby, I need to find more substantial employment." And if I didn't comply, I would be the bad person.

In 1977 I attempted suicide. Brother-in-law's first reaction was to contact a lawyer to see if my psychiatrist could be sued. The lawyer, who was active in the mental health field, told brother-in-law that suicide is an inherently psychotic act.

In 1980, brother-in-law had me (who brother-in-law knew at the time might be psychotic) hand over $10,000 to sister. At that time brother-in-law remained in teaching position mama got for him in 1969 so he could stay out of the army.

In spring of 1982, sister and brother-in-law went on one-week's vacation in Florida. Brother-in-law asked sister if she would have me call in sick for her husband every morning. Each morning for a week I had to call the Camden School District, because brother-in-law could not do that. Each morning brother-in-law would call me: "Well, did you make the call?"


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